Putting native Bees In Mind is the key to my new experimental installation for ArtsUP! in Fort Lauderdale, FL, which opens November 25, 2017.
Here is a synopsis of the basic premise and current research for my Bees In Mind installation:
There are over 4000 species of native bees in North America alone, all imperiled. The non-native honeybee, which is also threatened, is what the majority of people think of when they think of bees. We are at a critical juncture for all bee species, with loss of habitat, parasites, widespread herbicide and pesticide use, viruses spread from trucked honeybees, and general lack of awareness about what native bees do and what they need. Bees and other pollinators are at the heart of our food system and when they collapse, as they currently are doing, our demise will eventually follow. Pollinators have long and complicated relationships with the plant kingdom that we cannot replicate or replace. Most people don’t realize that the honeybee is only able to pollinate a fraction of our food, for example, while native bees and other pollinators can do it all. That’s because honeybees aren’t from here, they didn’t evolve naturally with our flora. Native pollinators mainly live in the ground and not in moveable hives that produce an abundance of the commodity honey, which is the main reason honeybees have been cultivated over native bees. Native bees rely on habitat that is increasingly limited and/or poisoned, and their nesting is unpredictable compared to the honeybee. Many species are not social in the way that a honeybee is, nesting solo or in small groups. They are disappearing at an alarming rate and are not widely known or studied. The Fish and Wildlife service just recently listed the Rusty Patch Bumblebee as endangered, the first bee species to be put on that list. But what does this mean? How is it possible to help the Rusty Patch Bumblebee and other native bees?
What can we do?
Seventy percent of native bees are ground dwellers and the majority of native bees travel only a few hundred feet from their nests. And many are stingless, or like bumblebees, unlikely to sting unless threatened. Most you will never see – they are often small, fast and active at specific times of the day. Leaving patches of soil undisturbed and free from mulch or pine straw can encourage nesting. Some, like the native orchard bee which is not a ground dweller, can be encouraged by DIY constructed dwellings. Not using herbicides and pesticides and instead generating healthy garden ecosystems that take care of ‘pests’ naturally is critical. Cultivating an awareness of native bee life cycles (some species are active in the spring and some in the fall, for example) and planting native plants that bloom during different times of the year to help provide food for them is important. Native plants have long time relationships with native bees and other pollinators that in many cases cannot be replaced. Maintaining small edible gardens encourages native bees as well.
How to we make these changes within our communities? And how do we make these changes on a large-scale in our city, state, country and planet?
What does Bees in Mind aim to do?
The installation is a touchstone; a way to inspire a subconscious or conscious opening to understanding within a viewers mind through the medium of beauty. It’s also provides a context via my sightings of native bees in action – native species that most people have never ever seen – and a space for meditation on bees, habitat and our inter-connectedness.
More to follow soon…!